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Pumpkins Sweet & Savory
The Quintessential Fall Flavor

Pumpkins Sweet & Savory
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Immigrants to the New World brought with them an ancient Irish tradition of carving turnips and transferred it to a uniquely American fruit: the pumpkin. In modern times, society’s fascination with all things pumpkin goes beyond jack-o-lanterns to coffee, ice cream, and just about everything else flavored with “pumpkin spice” (a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) which is used to flavor pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins have a long and respectable history in the kitchen and elsewhere, from Jacques Pépin to Martha Stewart, various chefs featured on the Food Network, and such household staples as Good Housekeeping magazine. The fruit, the seeds (roasted or pressed for oil), the leaves, and the flowers are all edible. The indigenous peoples of North America also dried flattened strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Persuaded by the plant’s hardiness, taste, and nutritional value (they’re a good source of potassium and vitamin A) travelers quickly carried it across oceans and continents. Today, only Antarctica has no pumpkins.

Many cultures prize pumpkin’s versatility. Ripe pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. Small, unripe pumpkins are edible, too, with the same culinary applications as zucchini or other summer squashes. Middle Eastern, Indian, and Burmese cooks use pumpkin for sweet dishes and desserts; the Chinese and Koreans consume pumpkin leaves in soups and the flesh as a cooked vegetable; In Australia and New Zealand, pumpkin roasted with other vegetables occupies a favored place on dining room tables. The Japanese and French prefer savory applications of pumpkin. Thais snack on the seeds and Italians incorporate mashed pumpkin as a stuffing for ravioli. In Kenya, people enjoy boiled or steamed pumpkin, and in Zambia, folks cook the leaves with groundnut paste for a tasty side dish.
Pumpkin use doesn’t stop there. Veterinarians recommend canned pumpkin--without the added spices--as a high-fiber dietary supplement for dogs and cats that suffer from constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. Farmers feed pumpkin to chickens in the winter to maintain egg production. The flesh and seeds have also found use among Native American, Chinese, and European medicine to treat intestinal worms and urinary ailments. Native Americans also used mashed pumpkin as a poultice.

Find sweet and savory recipes for pumpkin in the following cookbooks:

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